Sandy Begbie, chief people officer at Standard Life

Sandy Begbie, chief people officer at Standard Life

Finding the perfect match

Sandy Begbie, chief people officer at Standard Life, explains why the investment company has joined forces with The Prince’s Trust to run an innovative recruitment programme, match-making businesses and young people looking for work.

Recruitment can be a big risk for businesses. The aims are to find the best person for the role, someone who can deliver business needs, but also someone that will slot seamlessly into the team and culture. This requires a significant time commitment, and hours poring through applications and coordinating diaries.

It can be a particular challenge for smaller businesses looking to grow by finding candidates who meet needs and are a good fit, and the stakes are high – get it wrong and it can have a major impact on a small team and a setback in their progress.

Often we find ourselves blinded by the same recruitment processes based on a set of parameters focussing on skills and experience. Ploughing through applications is a difficult way to get a sense of the individual, the talent and the drive behind near-identical submissions.

Not only can this process take up a significant amount of time, but many businesses can get stuck recruiting from the same pool, preventing themselves from employing people from different social backgrounds who could bring a fresh perspective to a team. It can mean they miss the really stand-out candidates who would be a fantastic fit with their business.

Many companies also focus too heavily on graduate recruitment, overlooking talented young people looking to start their career straight from school.

This traditional approach to recruitment can often have a negative impact on young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Youth unemployment is a serious issue and although ONS figures show that the rate of young people out of work is lower than in previous years, the percentage of young people who are long term unemployed remains stubbornly high at 33%. We feel that more can be done to lower this figure.[1]

As businesses, we need to challenge our recruitment practices and play an active role in breaking down any barriers that exist and providing real and sustainable opportunities for future generations. This applies to businesses large and small. These days, small businesses make up over ninety nine per cent of our private sector economy[2]. For this reason they can provide great opportunities for talented young people, and it is vital businesses feel able to engage with young people looking for work.

This is why Standard Life, in partnership with The Prince’s Trust, is running ‘Get Hired’, a speed networking event bringing together young people from Prince’s Trust programmes who are ready to move into employment, with businesses looking for fresh new talent.

The method, much like speed dating, allows both the interviewees and the business to assess their potential match in a face to face environment hence avoiding all the paper work and CV sifting. It also exposes the young people to a large number of hiring companies in a short timeframe, thereby maximizing the chance of finding a job. The approach of The Prince’s Trust facilitating interviews for businesses attending a Get Hired event is a really efficient and cost effective way to find new talent.

The aim of the Get Hired programme is to match young people to exciting, interesting and sustainable careers but also, most importantly, employment that they are passionate about.  At the same time, it helps businesses take a vital next step in their growth by recruiting a well-matched employee. This face-to-face introduction enables businesses to focus on compatibility, interests and passions of the young person they are meeting.

By bridging the gap between young people and local businesses, we want this initiative to not only create a talented workforce for future generations, but also reduce the skills gap within local businesses in the long term.

We also know Get Hired works – for both businesses and young people. To give you a sense of the success, we have supported more than 1,000 young people with interviews at Get Hired, and in London alone we’ve facilitated more than 2,000 interviews. Following the day of interviews, nearly half of the young people have secured a job.

We have also hosted nearly 300 small businesses at Get Hired, introducing them to the pool of potential recruits. Following a single day of interviews businesses hire young people who become a valuable part of their team, and many companies have returned to Get Hired events when they’ve needed to recruit again. We’ve attended and recruited for our own team too!

During a Get Hired day, Prince’s Trust staff and volunteers (often employees from across Standard Life) spend the morning working with young people on interview skills and presentation. After lunch, businesses pitch to the young people, explaining why they are a great place to work. For young people who often feel excluded from the jobs market, this experience is uniquely empowering as they suddenly feel valued and wanted by employers.

During the afternoon the young people, who are now fully prepared and confident, choose who they’d like to work for and the interviews take place then and there. The day-long process helps them to make the most of the job opportunities available, and to demonstrate their interests, personality and goals effectively, something they may not have been given the chance to do using a traditional recruitment process.    

Many of the small businesses taking part in Get Hired have told us how they have previously struggled to recruit, but that the Get Hired mechanism has really helped. It enables them to meet a range of young people all at once, increasing their chances of finding a successful match.

We have been working with The Trust to run Get Hired days for three years now, and having seen the impact it can have on businesses and young people in London, this year we’re taking the events around the UK. With Get Hired days planned in Cardiff, Hull, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Leeds. We are aiming to continue to increase the number of young people we support into work, and we’re looking forward to seeing this programme grow.

I have joined several Get Hired days now and seen first-hand how employers are able to assess their potential new recruits based on their attitude, communication and interest in the role. This is not only giving the businesses the chance to recruit people who might not have had the chance to get on to their shortlist, but it is also driving forward inclusive employment practices which is something we wholeheartedly support at Standard Life. We believe that individuals and communities deserve to have the skills and opportunities to work, build careers and plan confident futures.

The young people I’ve met at Get Hired have impressed me with their energy, knowledge and tenacity. Hearing about these people six months down the line successfully progressing in their new line of work just goes to demonstrate this approach to recruitment helps us all find the perfect match.

For more information on The Prince’s Trust Get Hired programme, visit

[1] ONS, UK labour market: Mar 2017

[2] Federation of Small Businesses, Business Population Estimates for the UK and Regions in 2016